This Week in Black Art and Culture: J.Balvin apologizes and more

This week in Black art and culture, J Balvin has offered an apology following weeks of backlash over his music video,Perra. A middle school in North Carolina is attracting outrage after assigning students a Kara Walker painting containing sexual themes as part of an art project. French-speaking artist Aya Nakamura gains exposure. The value of an NFT collection plummets as a creator’s racist drawings circulate. DC Comics and Milestone collaborate to develop the Milestone Initiative, a program aimed at introducing Black emerging creators to the comic book industry. Season 3 of Atlanta is being teased by Donald Glover.

Reggaeton Music Video Called Sexist, Racist

J Balvin, the reggaeton musician, has apologized for his Perravideo, which depicted Black women on leashes. The song, which includes Afro-Dominican model and rapper Tokischa, is off his fifth studio album, José, and was released in early September. Raymi Paulus directed the video, which shows Balvin handling two Black women on leashes, multiple Black performers in dog-like prosthetics and masks, and Tokischalying inside a doghouse, where she is given fried chicken and cereal in a dog dish.

The video was removed on Oct. 17, but the harm had already been done. Paulus, who also manages Tokischa, subsequently deactivated his personal Instagram account. Colombian Vice President Marta Luca Ramrez and Presidential Counselor for Women’s Equality Gheidy Gallo Santos condemned Balvin’svideo “sexist, racist, machista, and misogynistic” in a joint letter.

“The artist uses images of women and people (of) Afro-descendants… who are presented with dog ears,” they stated in an open letter published on Oct. 10. “While walking, the singer carries two women Afro-descendants tied with neck chains and crawling on the floor like animals or slaves.”

Tokischa addressed the controversy in an interview with Rolling Stone, apologizing for how the video was viewed. Tokischa’smanager and video director Raymi Paulus explained in an email that the film was intended to be a “satirical portrayal” of the “various meanings of the term ‘perra,'” as well as life in the Dominican Republic’s barrios. Paulus also told Rolling Stonethat the idea to have the performers play dogs was based on the “realities of the barrio” and how its residents are seen in society.

“Our creative process never aimed to promote racism or misogyny,” Paulus said. “The Dominican Republic is a country where most of the population is Black and our Blackness is predominant in underground scenes, where the filming took place, and which was the subject of the video’s inspiration. Perra was a video filmed in the neighborhood, with people from the neighborhood, and the use of people of color in Perra was nothing more than the participation of our people in it.”

Controversial Art Class Project Removed

As part of an art class project, a sixth-grade class in North Carolina was instructed to examine a painting that depicted a sexually explicit act, which has enraged their parents. Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart, by Kara Walker, was assigned to students at Kennedy Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district has removed the picture, some parents are still baffled as to why their children were required to examine an art piece depicting a sexually explicit act. Samantha Davis, a parent, was one of the first to speak out. “I was shocked. I didn’t think I needed to look up what my child was learning in an art class,” she explained.

Davis said she discovered the artist after viewing her daughter’s work and learning that the artist is being studied in class. “I understand the topic being appropriate for college and adults. I don’t find this artist and what she depicts as something age-appropriate for middle school kids to see,” Davis said.

Kennedy Middle School Principal Kevin Sudimack issued a statement to parents regarding the event, stating, “It was brought to my attention that there were some inappropriate artist images that were inadvertently included in a sixth grade art lesson while the teacher is on maternity leave.” He added, “I worked with the art teacher to have the pictures removed from the CANVAS platform.”

International Artist Aya Nakamura Gains Exposure

Vogue Paris officially became Vogue France, and the inauguralcover features none other than Aya Nakamura, the world’s most popular French-speaking female artist. The fashion magazine published its cover on Tuesday, with Nakamura in Balenciaga Haute Couture and shot by Carlijn Jacobs. It will be available on newsstands on Thursday.

In just four days, Nakamura’s most recent album, Aya, which was released this year, passed AC / DC to become the third most listened to album in the world on the Spotify platform. Her album, Nakamura was certified diamond in 2020 for more than 500,000 in export sales and more than a billion Spotify listens. Epic Games, the video game publisher that offers interactive experiences in the Fortnite game with celebrities such as Neymar, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, announced the addition of Aya Nakamura to the roster in September. As a result, she is the first French artist to be featured in “Fortnite Concerts.”

Her record label, Warner Music France, has just secured an agreement with Epic Games to be a part of the debut of the “Soundwave Series,” an event in which five international musicians will perform.

Racist Drawings Cause NFT to Decrease in Value

George Trosley’s racist drawings from his time at Hustlermagazine have resurfaced, now sparking outrage. After a series of racist cartoons produced by one of its designers were posted on social media, the Jungle Freaks nonfungible token (NFT) collection lost about 80% of its trading value overnight. Jungle Freaks is a collection of 10,000 hand-drawn zombies and genetically modified gorillas in a post-apocalyptic 2077 at war with each other.

The Jungle Freaks website proudly proclaims Trosley as a former cartoonist for the adult magazine, Hustler. Trosleyconceptualized the project, which is curated by his son George III Trosley. Following the discovery of Trosley’s insulting images, several NFT participants expressed their displeasure.

Even Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood, who recently has shown interest in NFTs, after having purchased a NFT from Trosley tweeted, “I was made aware of some of the artist’s disturbing prior cartoons. Upon learning this, I immediately sold the NFTs, as I wholly denounce any form of racism. I have donated the funds from the sale of the NFT to LDF and Black Lives Matter.”

Trosley’s son, George III (commonly known as The Prince), posted a message to the Jungle Freaks NFT Discord, claiming that his father’s earlier paintings appalled him. The statement reads, “The Trosley Family does not endorse or condone racism.” Trosley attributed the incident to the mentality that Hustler and its infamous publisher, Larry Flynt, promoted at the time. He wrote, “It was erroneous then, and it is incorrect today.”

“It was inappropriate for my father to take part in this,” he went on. Aside from Wood, a slew of other Trosley NFT owners have sold theirs: More than 3,200 Jungle Freaks were sold in the previous two days, accounting for one out of every three. The average retail price for the collection dropped by 65 percent.

DC Comics’ Milestone Initiative to Introduce Emerging Black Creators to Comic Book Industry

DC Comics is launching a new Milestone Initiative to serve the community, using the Milestone Media brand created by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. “Black and underrepresented” comic book creators will collaborate with DC Comics as part of their new talent development program, Next Generation DC (NGDC), with the company stating that “if stories shape the world we live in, then storytellers should reflect that world.”

The Milestone Initiative is on the lookout for the next generation of diverse and Black comic book creators who are prepared to pursue a career in the comic book business. Selected participants will be invited to a one-week summit at DC Comics HQ in Burbank, California, from Valentine’s Day to Feb. 18, 2022, hosted by WarnerMedia, DC and Ally, where they will make connections, form community, and begin an immersive course to help hone their creative skills. DC Comics will cover the costs of travel and lodging. Mentoring will be provided by well-known comic book character and financial specialists.

Following the Milestone Summit, participants will take an eight-week virtual course from The Kubert School, which will provide creators with a portfolio of work, knowledge and skills, as well as a pathway into DC talent should they choose to pursue it. DC will remain in touch with all participants in the months following the Summit to find appropriate comics assignments and other work.

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